BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 25, 2019)



Austin Strategic Mobility Plan is here to guide the multimodal path to 2039 (Austin Monitor)

The city of Austin is inviting public comment as the final draft of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan makes its way to various city boards and commissions beginning this week and continuing through March. The full document was made available on the city’s website on Friday, Feb. 22.

ASMP is the city’s transportation appendix to the 2012 Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, which outlines a vision of sustainable growth through 2039 (Austin’s 200th anniversary). It is a compilation of policies and actions to reach the city’s transportation targets with accompanying transportation network maps and tables. If adopted, ASMP will take the place of the outdated 2025 Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan.

It took the city roughly two years to write the plan with the help of the Multimodal Community Advisory Committee and an extensive public engagement process. Thanks in part to the advisory committee’s dual mission of guiding both ASMP and Project Connect, the plan is Austin’s first comprehensive transportation vision to complement Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s long-term transit vision. It also incorporates elements from dozens of other visions, from the Bicycle Master Plan to the CAMPO 2040 Plan.

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Casar opposes dense rezoning Renteria supports (Austin Monitor)

On Thursday, Council approved the rezoning of two adjacent properties in the East Riverside corridor that will allow for considerably greater density when the property is redeveloped. The approval, which was on first reading only, was done over the objections of District 4 Council Member Greg Casar, who attempted to convince his colleagues to postpone the vote.

The properties, which are located at 2215 and 2315 Town Lake Circle, are in Council Member Pio Renteria’s District 3, and Renteria indicated his strong support for the project, saying the November Council election showed that Austinites favor greater density. Renteria said the city needs to move forward with more housing and he had assurances from the developer that they would provide some affordable housing on the site.

Casar said he was concerned because the backup material for the case did not indicate how many multifamily units were going to be demolished and what plans there might be to assist the current inhabitants of those units. He was also concerned because there is no indication of the income levels of the people being displaced.

Council Member Alison Alter pointed out the obvious – the properties are in Renteria’s district and she would defer to his judgment. However, she asked for a comment from the applicant. Leah Bojo of the Drenner Group, representing owner Diana Zuniga, said she could not explain the absence of information in the backup. However, she pointed out that developers were going through the rezoning phase of the project before doing the site plan. She offered to meet with any Council members who had more questions before second and third readings.

Although Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza provided a second for Casar’s motion to postpone the case, she did not vote for the postponement. Only Council Member Ann Kitchen voted with Casar. Except for Casar, every Council member voted to approve first reading for the zoning change…

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Why Georgetown’s green energy gamble didn’t pay off (Austin American-Statesman)

After the county seat of traditionally conservative Williamson County opted to go big on renewable energy a half-dozen years ago, its mayor was exalted by climate activists and liberal icons. Smithsonian magazine called Mayor Dale Ross, a Republican, the “unlikeliest hero of the green revolution.” Journalists poured in to write about the cultural and energy significance of Georgetown’s move.

The city invested in wind and solar contracts, part of its claim that it was powered 100 percent by renewable energy, because it made financial sense, Ross said then. Now the hosannas have ceased, as Georgetown finds itself struggling with a revolt among its 25,000 ratepayers. Even as city officials acknowledge they had misjudged their residents’ power demands, they are pointing fingers at the state’s grid for what they say were incorrect projections about the nature of a volatile energy market. Georgetown has lost $8.3 million on its renewable energy contracts from 2016 to 2018 due to depressed energy prices, and it is in the middle of trying to renegotiate the contracts, city officials have said…

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All 12 Senate Democrats oppose Texas Secretary of State David Whitley. That's more than enough to block his nomination. (Texas Tribune)

All 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate have publicly confirmed they are opposed to confirming embattled Secretary of State David Whitley, giving them more than enough votes to block his nomination if they’re all in the chamber when the vote comes up.

The tally of “no” verdicts from Senate Democrats hit a dozen on Friday, upping the ante on the minority party’s ability to block his path to confirmation if they all stick together. To be confirmed, Whitley needs a two-thirds vote in the 31-member chamber. But whether Whitley’s nomination will make it that far remains unclear…

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Texas governor stockpiles cash but not for the usual reason (Dallas Morning News)

As governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott doesn’t flash the White House ambitions of his predecessors or their big personalities. But in just five years he has quietly built his own distinction: Taking in more cash from donors than any governor in U.S. history.

Few others even come close. Since first running in 2013, Abbott has accepted more than $120 million in political contributions, an Associated Press review of campaign filings shows. He has been showered with big-donor money on a scale that is prohibited in most states and far beyond limits for members of Congress — more than 200 times receiving contributions of $100,000 or more.

The only others in his league would be former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who since their first successful runs in 2010 raised $119 million and $111 million respectively, according to the National Institute on Money in Politics. But they needed years more to get there….

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Bill takes aim at open records loophole made infamous by Enrique Iglesias show (Houston Chronicle)

Texas open government advocates are climbing up off the mat this legislative session after nearly every bill expanding the public’s right to government information failed to become law in 2017, the last time the Legislature convened.

The Texas Public Information Act is considered one of the stronger open government laws in the country, but a number of court decisions and exceptions have chipped away at the law in recent years.

A few examples:

When Texas law enforcement officers kill a suspect in custody, they are not required to release any records detailing what happened. Police agencies in the state can instead invoke an investigative exemption that allows them to withhold records in any criminal case that does not lead to a conviction. Suspects who die in custody never make it to court.

In 2015, Iglesias performed at the McAllen holiday parade hosted by the city. McAllen reported a loss from hosting the parade but wasn’t forced to disclose the amount as Attorney General Ken Paxton cited the Boeing ruling. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, filed H.B. 81, which would address the Iglesias controversy by requiring governmental entities to disclose how much they spend on parades, festivals and other event…

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Trump Administration Proposes Sweeping Changes To Federal Family Planning Program (KUT)

The Trump administration has issued its final draft of a rule that makes sweeping changes to Title X, the federal program that provides birth control and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans.

Under the new rule, posted Friday by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is ineligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception. Federal funding for abortion already is illegal in most cases.

The rule, first proposed last year, has been popular with President Trump's socially conservative base. It's expected to be formally published to the Federal Register soon, and would go into effect 60 days later…

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Episode 35: Austin Developer Terry Mitchell, President, Momark Development LLC

(Run time - 17:10)

“Various forms of denser housing, in appropriate locations, has to be the main source of housing for our future.” - Terry Mitchell

On today’s episode we speak with Terry Mitchell, President of Momark Development LLC. Terry is a well established leader in Austin’s homebuilding community, having a hand in the development of iconic properties such as downtown’s Austonian, to the recent The Tyndall luxury condominiums on the east side. He is equally as known for his passion and expertise around affordable housing issues.

Terry and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the developer’s approach to building, as well as the state of Austin’s affordable housing crisis and what can be done about it.

This episode was recorded on January 29, 2019.

Link to Episode 35

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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